Happy holidays, y’all ! Pheeew… it’s over: I survived my first sober Christmas in a family of heavy drinkers. Yaaay !!!
I am sure that many of you had some kind of an intense experience, whether it was discovering sober Christmas for the first time, dealing with family members and dynamics (whether pleasant or horrible), being sent back to childhood memories, remembering lost loved ones, having to let go of something or someone, etc. You name it! …. It’s funny how these end of year holidays can feel like a tornado, so powerful as they approach, and then ….. gone ! Leaving us with the real question —which can (should?) be asked every single second of every single day: Now What?
With alcohol off the (metaphorical) table for me, Christmas wasn’t as hard as I imagined it would be. Strangely (significantly?), it was less emotionally intense than previous years. Sitting through two loooooong meals and watching my loved ones sip champagne and French wine while I stared at my excessively sweet sparkling apple juice was the “hardest” part, and it wasn’t really that hard (must find good alcohol-free beer!). Compared to the joy of having navigated the whole experience sober and of moving forward on the path of self-discovery, a few seconds of yearning is a small (and impermanent) price to pay.
Because YES: being sober radically changed Christmas for me. Usually I am a presents-Xmas lights-pudding-cake-crackers-tree decorating maniac. I’ve loved (and been disappointed by) Xmas every year since I was a kid: true attachment, right there for you. This year, I witnessed everything “from afar”, so to speak. With no filter, I observed the futile crescendo of agitation, excitement, stressing out over preparations. I observed the steady dance of “eat, drink, open presents, eat, drink, repeat until nausea”. I noted the ravages of the post-feast coma-inducing wave of semi-slumber that leaves folks drained, overstuffed. But this year, something in me simply couldn’t join in with the same wholeheartedness as before. I felt slightly disgusted at my family’s obliviousness to the excess of it all, though I did my best to remain nonjudgmental so as to not offend anyone. I thought to myself: when I have children, I want to have meaningful-ethical celebrations. Don’t get me wrong: I partook! I unwrapped my presents, hugged my family, ate my food, overdosed on sugar, craved the champagne that I didn’t drink. Also: I experienced gratitude! There was joy and sharing and laughter and yes, food is delicious, and yes we were all together, despite our imperfections and imperfect lives. Yes. But there was also a newly inserted gap, a distance, a mildly dissociated ongoing stream of questions: “What’s all the fuss about? What is this all for ? Shouldn’t joy be every day rather than once a year? How is this helping anyone? Isn’t this much too much? Why am I not enjoying myself as much as I think I should? Shouldn’t we be feeling ashamed of all this excess?” I didn’t ask for seconds. I felt a strong urge to volunteer, to help, to give. I felt stunned by the emptiness of it all, at the heart of the agitation. I felt sad, also, that I couldn’t experience the naive joy that comes with inebriated indulgence and more and more, seems like a ghost from the past. I felt worried that I am becoming a puritanical ascetic monk, a nihilist or a cynic. But thankfully I managed to let it all go and joined in despite the cool skepticism and the feeling of being stuck in a Beckett play. I took another bite of chocolate and I promised myself that 2020 would be a MEANINGFUL year. No more “lose weight look good get lots of stuff find love” resolutions bullshit. Being sober is helping me realize that I want to make a GOOD life, not a life where I constantly try and feel good. I want to do good. I want to help.
It’s strange, writing these dramatic paragraphs. I almost forgot that the whole time, I had a really bad cold (and didn’t make a huge deal out of it). That on Xmas eve, my mother suddenly felt sick, left the table to throw up and went to bed. This explains why Xmas was so peaceful this year. No drama, no huge fights, no boiling rage, no tragedy, no self-pity!. Ironically, she wasn’t sick because she was drunk (though she WAS drunk, she always is): on boxing day, five of us were throwing up: we all shared the same food poisoning/bug (This was NOT a restful holiday lol). Strangely, this wasn’t a huge deal either. Meditation is really helping me not create more suffering on top of whatever is already going on.
I am also skimming over the BIG accomplishment of spending two weeks in Paris sober, with all of my “drinking” friends. They were all all flabbergasted by my “metamorphosis”, all curious, and nonjudgmental. Two of them have even written to me since, asking for tips on going AF. They said I helped inspire them to try it out too. WOW.
What am I most proud of? They told me that I am the least judgmental person that they know, and the opposite of preachy with the whole alcohol free/meditation lifestyle thing. That was the best Xmas gift of them all.
I fly back to the USA tomorrow.
I can’t believe I did it! My first Parisian sober trip. My first sober Xmas. A year ago I never would have thought I would be capable of this. Sure, it was a bit dissociated, but I think I am old enough to let go of my attachment to the yearly feast/present ritual (at least until I have children of my own ^^). For now I am more curious about other, more meaningful things, and less interested in excessive pleasures of the senses. Through sobriety, I am slowly learning to moderate in other areas of my life.
Weirdly, I am really looking forward to my first sober new year. I am eager to get home and thankful for the impermanence of things, including these family rituals that so many of us freak out about but which have often lost their initial meaning and end up being mere ghosts of themselves. Strangely, I feel at peace. Grateful for simple, real, things: being alive, the smile on my sister’s face, the reflection of the sun in a puddle.
As this year comes to an end, I am feeling a strong urge to make myself more useful to others and to the world. This might involve making some career choices that I would have been terrified to make had I been drinking every night. I am going to turn 33 in January. At last, it is time to look death in the eye (dramatiiiiic but true) and make real decisions about who I want to be. Who is that? WE SHALL SEE.
Hang in there / Happy almost new year !